Lately, everyone is investing into the hype of dieting. Menus now feature “superfoods” and a greater number of healthy alternatives, people are arguing with their buddies on Facebook about whether meat or bread is actually good for you, and many are experimenting with the different programs claimed into existence. Much of this has to do with the desire for weight loss or the perfect ‘bikini body’. But this team of researchers may have just found another motivator for these dieters and a reason to indulge in all of the guacamole: greater intelligence.
A new study has revealed that monounsaturated fatty acids (which include olive oils, avocados, and nuts) are connected to overall intelligence. These University of Illinois researchers analyzed approximately 100 healthy adults and, “compared patterns of fatty acid nutrients found in blood samples, functional MRI data that measured the efficiency of brain networks, and results of a general intelligence test.”
Leader of the study, Dr. Aron Barbey, says that their goal was to better understand how nutrition may strengthen cognitive performance, as well as to look at how nutrition may affect the functional organization in our brains.
Upon examining the nutrients in participants’ blood, Barbey and her team found that the fatty acids were bunched in two different patterns: monounsaturated fatty acids and saturated fatty acids. They then used a measure referred to as small-world propensity to discover that general intelligence is related to how efficiently and effectively the brain’s dorsal attention network (which allows us to focus our attention and solve everyday problems) is functionally organized; furthermore, they found that those with greater levels of monounsaturated fatty acids had greater small-world propensity.
According to Barbey, their study suggests that, “in order to understand the relationship between MUFAs [(monounsaturated fatty acids)] and general intelligence, we need to take the dorsal attention network into account. It’s part of the underlying mechanism that contributes to their relationship.” She also hopes that their discoveries will lead to additional research into how exactly nutrition affects intelligence. Barbey says that they need to now carry out an interventional study over time to discover whether MUFA intake over the long-term might influence our brain network.
“This gives us evidence of the mechanisms by which nutrition affects intelligence and motivates promising new directions for future research in nutritional cognitive neuroscience,” Barbey continued. After reviewing the research team’s findings, those who didn’t buy into the diets that emphasized the importance of healthy fats just might reconsider now! But not for the weight loss factor, the intelligence one.